EPL

Solskjaer 'delighted' with Tuanzebe's versatility and leadership qualities

By Sports Desk October 23, 2020

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised Axel Tuanzebe for his display against Paris Saint-Germain and backed the defender to have a long and successful career at Manchester United.

Academy product Tuanzebe earned rave reviews for stifling Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League win at the Parc des Princes.

The 22-year-old was playing for the first time in 10 months after battling back from injury and started on the right of a three-man defence, alongside Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw.

He made an unrivalled seven clearances – Layvin Kurzawa and Scott McTominay's four being the next best total on the pitch – and won both of his aerial duels in an impressive defensive performance in Paris.

Solskjaer has now challenged Tuanzebe, who has previously spent time on loan at Aston Villa, to maintain that level to become a first-team regular at Old Trafford.

"It was a great performance by a kid who's not played for 10 months," he said. "I'm delighted for him because he is such a professional character.

"He wants everything, he works really hard, has been really, really thorough in his rehab, and I am very pleased for him.

"Now it's about getting consistency in his performances – he's also got to stay injury-free, so we have to manage that.

"That's my job, his job and the physio staff's job, of course. But I think he can kick on."

Tuanzebe has made 10 Premier League appearances for United since his debut in January 2017 and has averaged 2.19 interceptions per game in that time.

That is more than any other current United player, with Eric Bailly (2.11) and Harry Maguire (1.93) next best from 44 and 42 games respectively.

He also tops the charts in terms of his tackle-success rate, albeit from far fewer matches than his team-mates, all of which Solskjaer believes stands him in good stead.

"He can do most things and is such a leader," Solskjaer said ahead of Saturday's home league meeting with Chelsea.

"He can play right-back, centre-back, central midfield – he can play many positions and he's a boy who takes responsibility for his own development 

"I'm sure he's doing everything he can to have a long career at United. So hopefully we can get that consistency."

Donny van de Beek is another who will be hoping to start this weekend as United look to win three straight top-flight meetings against Chelsea for the first time since 1965.

The Netherlands international has been restricted to four substitute appearances in the Premier League so far and Solskjaer reiterated the importance of giving him more time to settle.

"Donny is fit enough but of course it's about competition for places," he said. "It's about giving him time to settle in and adjust to his new team-mates. It's a new league.

"He's an absolutely top footballer and top personality. So humble and hardworking, but also he's of course eager to play more. 

"You'll see him throughout the season – it's going to be a long, long season and you'll see him. He has impressed me."

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